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Predators, Stars see opportunity to climb standings

by David Kalan /

PREDATORS (10-9-6) at STARS (12-10-2)


Last 10: Nashville 3-6-1; Dallas 5-4-1

Season series: The Nashville Predators have won their only meeting so far this season with the Dallas Stars, a 5-4 overtime win at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 25.

Big story: Need an indication of how tight the Western Conference is? Nashville is fourth in the Central Division while Dallas is fifth in the Pacific, but the Stars, owners of a winning record, actually have the same number of points and a better goal-differential than the Predators. Both teams will look to take a bite out of a likely competitor for a postseason berth when they face off in Dallas on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Predators: In the logjam that is the Western Conference playoff race, the Predators currently are on the outside looking in. Because of how tightly packed the bottom 13 teams in the conference are, however, Nashville is still more than alive in the hunt for a berth in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs with half the regular season left to play. Winning the division will be tough after the historic start by the Chicago Blackhawks, but second-place Detroit only is three points ahead of Nashville.

That time could begin to run out soon without a dramatic turnaround, though. The Predators lost their last game in a shootout to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, and while they did get a point, it gave the Preds their eighth loss in their last 11 games. The schedule won't be doing Nashville any favors as it looks to get out of the funk. Tuesday's visit to Dallas is the Predators' first stop on a five-game road trip which will be played in eight days.

Stars: Jaromir Jagr has been doing things lately at the age of 41 that most wish they could have done at the age of 21. Jagr has had a very strong season so far in Dallas, with 10 goals and eight assists in 23 games, but half of those goals have come in just the last four games. The Stars, winners of three of their last five games, are reaping the benefits, but they'll need Jagr to continue to produce if they're to earn their first trip to the playoffs in five years.

Much like Nashville, Dallas probably has little hope of making a run at the Pacific title due to a quietly great start by the Anaheim Ducks, but the Stars are right in the mix for second place in the division and a postseason berth. With a struggling Predators team coming to American Airlines Center on Tuesday, this could be the time for the Stars to begin a climb into the top eight. Nine of Dallas' next 11 games are at home.

Who's hot: The Predators have struggled offensively over the last few weeks, but defenseman Shea Weber has four assists in his previous three games. ... The Stars lost their last game Saturday at the Phoenix Coyotes, but they shouldn't blame goalie Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen allowed just two goals last Saturday and has surrendered just five in his previous three games.

Injury report: Dallas could get a big boost from its other elder statesman, as coach Glen Gulutzan said Ray Whitney, who was placed on IR with a foot injury Feb. 1, could play as soon as Tuesday. Brenden Morrow (strained groin) and Philip Larsen (upper-body injury) are questionable, while Jamie Benn, who suffered a wrist injury late in the game Saturday, is unlikely to play. … The Predators will be without forwards Colin Wilson (upper body) and Patric Hornqvist (upper body), who were placed on injured reserve Monday.

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